Ukraine reinforces Bakhmut defences amid relentless Russian assault | Ukraine

Ukraine reinforces Bakhmut defences amid relentless Russian assault | Ukraine

Ukraine is reinforcing its positions around Bakhmut in the eastern Donbass region after days of relentless attacks by Russian forces led by the Wagner mercenary group.

Bakhmut and the neighboring town of Soledar have been at the center of Moscow’s intense efforts to make progress in an area where Russian forces have been desperately trying to advance since the beginning of the summer.

In recent days, Russian attacks have focused on Soledar in an apparent attempt to cut off the city. “The enemy again made a desperate attempt to attack the city of Soledar from different directions and threw the most professional units of the Wagnerites into battle,” Ukraine’s military said on Monday, echoing comments made by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Sunday.

The capture of Soledar, which lies north-east of Bakhmut, would put Ukrainian forces in the area at risk of encirclement and offer Russia a possible avenue of approach against that city.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the mercenary group Wagner, which has been trying to capture Bakhmut and Soledar for months at the cost of many lives on both sides, said on Saturday that its importance lies in the network of mineral mines there. “Not only [has the ability to hold] a large group of people at a depth of 80-100 meters, but also tanks and infantry fighting vehicles can move,” he said.

Military analysts say the strategic military benefit to Moscow would be limited. A US official has said Prigozhin, a powerful ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, is eyeing salt and gypsum from the mines.

In nightly video remarks on Sunday, Zelenskiy said Bakhmut and Soledar were holding on despite widespread destruction after months of attacks. “Our soldiers are repulsing the ongoing Russian advance,” he said. In Soledar “things are very difficult”, he added.

Smoke rises after shelling in Soledar. Taking the city could cut off Ukrainian forces. Photo: Roman Chop/AP

At an evacuation center in nearby Kramatorsk, Olha, 60, said she had fled Soledar after moving from apartment to apartment after each was destroyed in the tank battles. “All last week we couldn’t go outside. Everyone was running, soldiers with machine guns, shouting,” said Olha, who gave only her name.

“There is no house left untouched,” she said. “Apartments were burning, breaking in half.” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesman for the eastern region, said the situation could stabilize.

“There are brutal and bloody battles there – 106 shellings in one day,” he said on Ukrainian television. Our troops in Soledar have been allocated additional forces and means for this purpose and everything is being done to improve the operational situation”.

Recent aerial images from the Bakhmut-Soldar sector have shown cratered battlefields strewn with the bodies of fallen Russian troops as Moscow has tried to overwhelm Ukrainian defenses with sheer numbers and tenacity, leading to a spike in combat deaths. Russian.

Analysts have suggested that, despite speculation that Russia may be preparing to forcibly conscript up to 500,000 more troops, Putin’s recruitment strategy may be contributing to the rise in Russian deaths.

In his weekly analysis of the situation in Ukraine, Phillips P O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, suggested that the high drop for Russian forces in eastern Ukraine did not bode well for any new mobilization. .

Calling the mass mobilization in the fall Putin’s “second army,” O’Brien argues that the “raw number of soldiers” is unlikely to be decisive on its own.

“Modern industrial warfare requires high-end equipment and trained soldiers far more than masses of poorly motivated recruits.

“We can see this in the Russian experience so far. Putin’s second army, most of it formed since being drafted in September, has actually performed worse than the more professional force with which the Russians began the war. Since September, Russian soldiers have died in large numbers and achieved only minor gains.”

The latest fighting came as serious doubts were cast over Russian claims to have killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers in barracks in Kramatorsk, with journalists visiting the city unable to find evidence of large-scale casualties.

A Reuters team visited two college dormitories that Moscow said were temporarily housing Ukrainian personnel and had targeted in retaliation for a New Year attack that killed scores of Russian soldiers and sparked an outcry in Russia.

No dormitory appears to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There was no visible sign that soldiers had lived there and no sign of bodies or traces of blood.

However, the Kremlin said it was confident its defense ministry was correct when it said 600 Ukrainian service personnel had been “destroyed” in the attack. Some pro-Kremlin military bloggers criticized the claims.

“Let’s talk ‘hoax,'” wrote a prominent pro-war military blogger on the Telegram messaging app, who posts under the name Military Whistleblower and has more than half a million subscribers.

“It is not clear to us who and for what reason decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers should die inside, all at once, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).

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